Murray's first Wimbledon was special but the second far, far better

To win Wimbledon once would have frozen Murray in time as the man who exorcised Fred Perry\'s ghost after 77 years.

Published: 11th July 2016 07:51 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th July 2016 01:35 PM   |  A+A-

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Andy Murray of Britain holds his trophy after beating Milos Raonic of Canada in the men's singles final on day fourteen of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London. |AP

WIMBLEDON: Remember that day Andy Murray won Wimbledon? Make room in your memory, because it just happened again - raising the 2013 champion from possible one-hit wonder to double master of Centre Court.

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To win Wimbledon once would have frozen Murray in time as the man who exorcised Fred Perry's ghost after 77 years. It would have trapped him in the time capsule of the day he beat Novak Djokovic in this arena. History might have locked him in with Lleyton Hewitt, Richard Krajicek, Goran Ivanisevic and Michael Stich - Wimbledon champions all, but winners who never reached those heights again.

The difference between winning Wimbledon once and winning it again is huge. And few would bet against Murray matching Perry's three singles title wins. To judge his career against a yardstick from the 1930s might seem a little passe. But it helps to have new targets now that he has erased any doubt about his pedigree.

Already Murray's Wimbledon record surpasses that of Perry, because his two wins have come in a golden age. Forget flannelled trousers and F Scott Fitzgerald. Murray has battled his way through the era of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, never once succumbing to the temptation to pick up easy money as the world's fourth best player.

Nobody would have blamed him for taking that road. Tim Henman kept bouncing off Pete Sampras. Murray has collided with three legends of the game. His golden run between the summer of 2012 - when he won Olympic gold and the US Open title - and the Wimbledon Championships of 2013 changed the story. Murray was now a dual Grand Slam winner. But was that the end of it, or would he come with another charge at greatness?

The 2013 victory was epic, draining and cathartic. It rescued British tennis from annual embarrassment. This one was smooth, clinical, one-sided. Few of us ever thought we would witness a British player winning Wimbledon so comfortably. The only awkward moment was Murray's extraordinary tirade at his own support team, for reasons he later refused to specify.

As royalty marched on to the court, the Union Flag was laid over the trophy presentation table and the old formality was restored, Murray sat weeping into his towel. This juxtaposition was telling because it showed how much successive Grand Slam final defeats have taken out of him, and how much this second Centre Court coronation was a vindication of the colossal effort he has put in.

Though the scoreboard margins were small - 6-4, 7-6, 7-6 - Murray displayed immense authority against Milos Raonic, who was largely out of his depth. Raonic's big weapon, his wall-thwacking serve, was nullified by Murray's brilliant returning. The older man was blessed with a far greater range of strokes.

A mature multiple Grand Slam finalist was dispatching someone who was a rookie at this highest level, showing him who was boss in a second-set tie-break of dazzling skill.

Murray has spent too long grappling with Djokovic to pass up this chance to beat a No?6 seed in a Wimbledon finale: an opponent with eight ATP tour titles to his own 38. A dubious honour was stalking Britain's No?1. In defeat, he would have become the first man in the open era to lose the first three Grand Slam finals of a calendar year. Murray had played in 10 finals and lost eight. Djokovic, who departed early here, had become his nemesis once again.

A cynic might say Murray simply exploited Federer's semi-final loss to Raonic and Djokovic's shock defeat by Sam Querrey. But why would anyone want to downgrade his achievement here? Anyway, in this kind of shape, he would have liked his chances against Federer or Djokovic. There was an intense focus and precision in his game, best expressed by his counter-punching of Raonic's 140mph-plus first serves.

Strange to report that there was a noticeable absence of British

ra-ra on Centre Court; fewer flags and less patriotic giddiness than three years ago. A Conservative prime minister, David Cameron, was booed. The air of uncertainty that pervades the land even reached tennis's most sacred ground.

A narrower kind of uncertainty has followed Murray. "I'm just really proud that I managed to do it again after a lot of tough losses in the latter stages of the slams over the last couple of years," he said. "To do it twice here in an event where there is a lot of pressure on me to perform - I'm very proud of how I've handled that over the years.

"Obviously a lot of questions would get asked of me after those losses. But you know, failing's not terrible." For some people it is. It burns them up. They settle for what they have, or accept their limitations, or sink into bitterness. Murray never did this. He always looked for the route out of a painful defeat. It led him back to the scene of his greatest triumph - one the British public demanded, in 2013. That one was for them, this one was for him, he seemed to say.

There is more to come, too. Anyone can see that. If this is his second peak, the odds are that he will sustain it, maybe for several years.

Wimbledon champion is a nice badge to wear. Double Wimbledon champion says something grander. It puts you in the pantheon.


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